A variety of indie museums tap into the compelling backstory of Hilo and Hawai‘i Island.

Lyman Museum & Mission House Covering both natural and cultural history, Hilo's most established museum is smallish but diverse.

Pacific Tsunami Museum You'll see Hilo – and 'seismic sea waves' in general – with clarity and respect after stopping here.

Hawaii Japanese Center Neatly curated exhibits on Hawai‘i's Japanese immigrants highlight both plantation life and Japanese culture.

‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai‘i Hilo's most high-tech museum juxtaposes Polynesian wayfaring and astronomy – and it works.

Antique shops History buffs can do 'independent study' with the island artifacts and memorabilia at downtown antique shops.


Your sweet tooth will be mightily sated with Hilo's plethora of unique, handcrafted specialties.

Big Island Candies Locals and tourists alike flock to this destination shop known for stellar quality and gorgeous packaging.

Two Ladies Kitchen This hole-in-the-wall is famous for mochi, handcrafted rice-based Japanese sweets.

Hawaiian Crown Plantation & Chocolate Factory For truly local gifts, come here for chocolate grown and made in Hilo.

Moonstruck Patisserie European-style pastries and cakes on a tropical island – incongruous and wonderful.

Short N Sweet Wide variety of cakes, pies, bars and marshmallows featuring local flavors such as pineapple and coconut.

Liko Lehua This restaurant sells jars of luscious liliko‘i (passion fruit) and other tropical fruit butters.

Locals' Favorite Eateries

While newer eateries might be trendier, fancier or healthier, you're in Hilo. Follow the locals and enjoy a truly local meal.

Cafe 100 Clean and efficient, this iconic drive-in serves a variety of loco moco, including fish and veg versions.

Kuhio Grille Imagine a plain American diner, but with dishes such as Hawaiian laulau and a multicultural crowd – and you have this untouristy spot.

Miyo's Always packed, this bustling spot consistently serves delicious local-style Japanese meals.

Cousins Seafood & Bento For takeout poke and plate lunches, this hole-in-the-wall counter is fantastic value.

Hawaiian Style Cafe This diner-style restaurant is known for huge portions of local comfort food (and for long lines).

KTA Super Store – Puainako KTA's flagship store is Hilo's gathering place, where locals meet and greet and where visitors can find great takeout meals and real local culture.


While admission fees in Hilo are generally affordable, some attractions cost absolutely nothing (or ask only for a donation).

Pana‘ewa Rainforest Zoo & Gardens Sprawling grounds with easily navigable paths and kiddie playgrounds make the zoo a terrific family outing.

Mokupapapa Discovery Center Come here for a good introduction to the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument – and ocean ecology in general.

Beaches Hilo's series of beaches are smaller and lava-rockier than those in West Hawai‘i, but they have their subtler charms.

Hilo Bayfront Trails Walking costs nothing, and these paved trails provide safe and scenic access to all visitors.

Big Island Candies OK, the packaged sweets aren't free. But staffers are generous with complimentary samples at this mesmerizing factory store.